Day for Night (1973)

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Those who have suffered through my occasionally pompous bloviation on all manner of artistic (and not-so-artistic) expression know that one of my pet peeves is “art about art”.  Writers are often told to write what they know.  Well, if I hear one more song about being on the road I’m going to yak.  And every freaking Neil Simon play has a playwright or an actor or, heaven help us, both in it.  Get out and know something else people.  Read a book.  Climb a mountain.  Anything.

So naturally, my first post here is about a movie about movies.  “Day for Night” is the English title of Francois Truffaut‘s “La Nuit Americaine”.  The title refers to a shot that is done in the daytime using a filter to make it appear as if the scene takes place at night.  The literal translation is “The American Night” but “Day for Night” is accurate, as this is the term used here in the good ol’ USA.  (Both terms are used in this multilingual film.)

MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW

If you’ve never seen a Truffaut film, this is not a bad place to start.  It’s highly accessible and quite a bit of fun.  It’s an ensemble piece about, of course, the making of a film.  The expected hi jinks ensue, including petulant actors, actors forgetting their lines, actors forgetting their cues, actors having sex with actors, actors having sex with script girls, and actors getting killed.  The cast is uniformly wonderful and includes Jean-Pierre Leaud (from Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows“) as the young buck in lust with the film’s star, Jacqueline Bisset as said star, Valentina Cortese as the aging actress who can’t seem to keep from opening a broom closet door when she wants to make her exit, the scrumptious Nathalie Baye as the continuity girl who holds the entire production together and Truffaut himself as, you guessed it, the director of the film within the film.

The mood is light and whimsical throughout, even when one of the actors meets an untimely fate.  The artifice of movie making is juxtaposed with the realities of the movie makers’ lives, lies and libidos.  It’s a love letter to the cinema and to collaborative art.

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2 Responses to “Day for Night (1973)”

  1. mrschili Says:

    I bet this would be a tough one to find in my town’s video store…

    I know next to nothing about film making or the theatre or any of the related arts, but I do always wonder this; if the production is in complete control of the set – if someone designs and makes this thing that only LOOKS real – WHY do they put broom closets in in the first place? Can’t EVERY door be an “exit”? They don’t go anywhere anyway…

    I’m just sayin’…

  2. Kizz Says:

    But then someone would exit through a broom closet because there were no brooms to stop them and the message boards on the fan sites would light up like Christmas trees with screeching about the continuity errors.

    Hey, MAB, nice to see you over here! You’re so much better about watching stuff that’s good for you. Thanks for turning me on to it!

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